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Gerard Koeppel Education. (2009) Gerard Koeppel ('Bond of Union').

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New York 23, Rendell 7, Buffalo 6, United States 4, Virginia 4, Clinton 3, Barto 3, South Carolina 3, Pennsylvania 3, New York City 2, Mississippi 2, Albany 2, U.s. 2, Washington 2, Philadelphia 2, Manhattan 2, Thomas Jefferson 2, Eri Eric 1, Unemployeded 1, Hudson 1,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Gerard Koeppel  Education.  (2009)  
   Gerard Koeppel ('Bond of Union').  

    October 28, 2012
    6:00 - 6:45pm EDT  

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prescription in there. >> thank you. very good to see you. enjoyed so much talking to you. please buy his book. thank you very much. [applause] >> appreciated. [inaudible conversations] ..
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>> now a program from the booktv archives, the expedited expansion to the united states, and facilitated trade to the u.s..
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the author recounts the development for initial proposal of construction in the 1800 to the day it opened on october 26th, 1825. this is about 40 minutes. >> i'm going to talk for 30 minutes, # and then we'll have time for a few minutes of q&a afterwards. it was not my idea to write this book. an editor asked the agent if he knew someone who could write a book. my agent said yes. the guy had written the box about new york city's water history, and the editor said great, editor called me, and i said, "why"? what is there new to write about a canal? can one make history out of iconic folklore? one was written in decades for children, an indication that the subject is not fertile ground for adult readers.
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my agent answered the question "why" by saying when a major publisher wants to pay you money for your second book, you just say yes, and so i did say "yes" after resolving the issue of a contract for a different book, but i began to answer the "why" question myself and there were new stories to tell, new ways to tell old stories about erie and myth busting to be done as well. the first thing i found out is that the famous erie canal song, 15 miles on the erie canal, also nope as low bridge, everybody down, was actually never sung on the erie canal, and that is because -- and, in fact, no erie boatman loved his mule named sal in the song, or at least, he never sang bout it. in fact, 15 miles on the erie
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canal is a song written in 190 # 5, the year that work began on the second enlargement for the second canal of motorized barges, it made barges pulled by mule folklore. i found tales that were just that, stories of long tradition, unknown origin, e erroneously become facts or obscured true facts. i'll talk about those in a few minutes, but i want to set the stage by reading a couple pages from the book's opening, if i can find it, and just to set the stage for the background that led to the ergs rie canal. the morning came on cool and bright, a recent frost had just begun to color the surrounding forest autumn.
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the blue sky, cool air mingled the past with the future, experienced with exception. in buffalo, there was no more expectant time than wednesday, october 26th, 1825, the population of 400 had been swelled by dozens of the political and state leaders and settler families from the surrounding countryside eager to celebrate the completion of the great project to determine their fortunes and the fortunes of many others. gathered in the lake erie port of buffalo that 20 years earlier was just a mark on a land developer's map, the leaders of new york betrayed no uncertainty. they serged past virginia and pennsylvania to be the most populated of the united states. new york city displaced philadelphia as the nation's largest and was taking control of the young american economy. in fields, drawing room, and counting houses across the atlantic, the words new york"
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were equivalent for opportunity. yet, until this fall morning, new york was no more assured of becoming the empire state than was virginia, pennsylvania, or even ohio, south carolina, or illinois. nor was the nation assured of becoming the global empyre it remains. in 1825, the united states were still plural and few, not a singular nation state, but sovereign states with a constitutionally limited federal government. as late as 1855 walt whitman proclaimed, quote, "the united states with vaining full of poetical stuff," and lincoln declared they changed the grammar and perception in the 1860s. in 1825, the sea to shining sea continental nation, a patriotic song, still a dream.
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the land was vast, and control of it was limited. the louisiana territory was purchased two decades earlier, but remained unorganized. mexico's north stretch from the sabine river on the gulf of mexico to the 42nd parallel on the pacific ocean what is now texas, arizona, new mexico, utah, nevada, california, colorado, oklahoma, and kansas. the pacific northwest was open country. back east, the appalachian mountain range guarding the interior from south carolina who what was recently maine threatened to confine the great american experiment to the atlantic sea board. the allegiance of the several transstates was unproven. there, settlers looked west down valleys to the mighty mississippi, not over their shoulders that the mountains that separated them from the political creators.
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former vice president conspiracy of 1805 and 1806 to make a nation for himself and others opened by the purchase had come apart, but illustrated limited control exerted by the east over the west of the national government over its unsettled territory. a continental nation so uncertain that president thomas jefferson deemed it optional, quote, "whether we remain in one confederacy or form into atlantic and pacific confederacies, i believe not important to the happy of either part." the coming of the steam boat in 180 # 7 gave hope, but there were soon boats on the rivers, but no true navigation between them. the war of 1812 proved to be a three year course that the united states remained a shaky nation. british burned washington, madison escaped on horse back, the british burnedded buffalo
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and neighboring black rock. the pioneers of western new york fled east in terror. there was no defending the state's western flank by the effective transportation of arms and supplies. the few roads were so abominable the government spent $60 million on wartime transport like a dollar a pound for cannon balls that cost a fraction of that to produce. the cost of moving artillery from albany to the major war front on like eri more than double purchase price and transportation of material from washington to the lake was up to five times the production cost. the british block aid of american ports forced coastal shipping on primitive land routes. one supply wagon arrived in south carolina two and a half months later. nothing had changed dramatically in the decades since peace was restored until the erie canal opened in 1825. for that sets the stage for what
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the country was like until the erie canal was built. before trains, planes, and automobiles, boats and horses were the only way to travel significant distances. in the days before good roads, the only way to transport numbers of people or things was by water. the natural water route west from the hudson was over land to albany bypassing the falls on the mohawk river, andÑi then a back breaking labor, 120 miles up the eastward flowing river in small boats pulled over rapids, small falls, meandering shallows to the mohawk river. then, a portage of a mile or more, depending on the season, to the westward flowing and aptly named filled with trees, and down a series of flood afflicted waterways in eastern
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lake ontario. from there, a trip by larger boat west, along nigh agray falls and other great lakes. it was a long voyage not easily or often taken. the erie cam had a direct connection from albany via the hudson, and the struggling frontier settlement of buffalo on lake erie. the canal, 363 miles, most across unbroken wilderness, 83 locks to deal with 700 feet of elevation change and 80 feet wide and four feet deep, but it was the first bond of union, the phrase used to describe it before it was finally approved. it was the first bond of union beyond the east sea board states. it immediately became the conduit for people and manufactured goods to head west and raw terribles and produce
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coming he's with new york the immigration port to and from europe. the canal was begun after political popular and economic debate in 1817, completed in 1825, lost $7 million entirely funded by new york state in a time when the total capital in new york state was $20 million. this projects cost it 7, but that $7 million was entirely recovered by tolls on the canal within eight years. when tolls were abolished in 1882, total revenues were 221 million, and total construction costs including enlargement completed by the civil war was $80 million for a profit of $41 million on a $7 million project. now, an argument could be made we're here in new york city because of the canal. without it, we would be living in philadelphia, savannah or new
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orleans. if the erie canal had not made new york city the center of the commercial world and established routes of trade and travelings the railroad, which came along not much later might have made other coastal places greater. now, a lot of the material in the book is the traditional tale, but as slebted, some of the mist busting in it for the brief talk. one, the irish did not build the canal, at least not in the significant -- at least not in significant numbers until half way through the nine construction seasons. they were pioneer farmerrers, settlers, refugees from bad farms in connecticut. the workers were on the canal sections that the farmer's contracted for were their sons or tarp hands. it was only when the most dangerous work eventually needed to be done on the western portions of the line mucking out swamps and blasting limestone
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ridges that the legendary gangs of irish immigrant laborers found work on the erie canal. another little bit of myth busting. the father of american civil engineering, that was -- that's his title, the title that he came to have, erie chief george, has something of a questionable paternity. wright, like every so-called erie engineer was a country surveyor at a time with no trained or experienced jerns, but it was interesting to discover that before eri eric, wright had been fired by a land development company for failing to lay a road to the property, and more importantly, he was nearly fireed from the erie job. he was pursuing other surveying work, and on state time, and also avoiding hazardous erie
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field work in unhealthy terrain where the line were laid. he was close to getting fired a couple months after construction had begun. in 1839, the first attempt to create a professional society of american engineers with wright at its head failed when a majority voted against the society's proposed constitution, effectively, a rejection of wright himself by the peers. the present american society of civil engineers, formed after wright's death, proclaimed him the father of american civil engineering in 1969. a well-deserved honor for the ultimately successful erie project and later cam and railroad work, but not an honor that his peers would have given a man who many perceived as a flatterer of his employers and a credit stealer from subordinates.
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another area, hydraulic cement. the true discovery of american water proof cement, and not a particularly sexy topic, but the masonry structures of the canal, the locks and waste and various other components of the cam made of stone that needed to be sealed with hydraulic cement could not have been built without the cement of the right kind of burned limestone mixed with sand that hardens in water. the false story of the discovery was planted up wittingly in the erie bible, a 1906 state authorized two-volume history, the starting point of research for the erie canal, and this story, in that book, has been repeated ever since. now, it turns out that the author of that book, a well-respected engineer, picked up the cement story from an unreliable county history published locally, a half
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century earlier, and 30 years after the fact when all the principles were dead. the hero is a young erie engineer who did, in fact, get the patent in 1820 for water proof cement and vigorously defended it in court. he lost a lot of money in the process including the $2,000 he paid to the true discoverer. the canal's agent for securing lime and other materials, a fellow named andrew wartow who conducted expeernlts on sample thes to get the right stone. letters and other documents reveal an arm's length deal between the two men in which wright gave barto $2,000 for the privilege of pursuing a pa tent giving him a 25% silent interest in profits from the patent at
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which there turned out to be known. patents were hard to defend in those days, and the commissioners, the new york state commissioners in charge of building the canal who knew at least part of the true had no interest in any of their contractors paying any of the contractors paying royalties on the cement to make their job more expensive. the commissioner's claimed that the discovery was made in the processes of their employees' duties. there's more to the story. you have to go to the book to get all of the details, but that's the basics of it. true story it was barto may not be especially important to the reader, but the cement itself was very important. the formulation that barto discovered and the white family successfully manufactured in competition with other manufacturers and whites were
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the best manufacturers of the cement. it was used to build an aqua duct, the footings of the brooklyn bridge, the ped stool of the statue of liberty, and the walls of the panama canal. another bit of history, the moj hawk criss cross of 1821-22, and nothing written about it as far as i can tell, pitted the father of american civil engineering against a fellow namedded john rendell, an albany native, prom innocent family in new york, he was a skilled surveyor, and the man who had just spent a dozen years laying out and mapping the future street grid of manhattan.
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we're here on 57th street because 200 years ago, john put markers for thousands of rectangle blocks on then what was a rural and rugged landscape. john, he's the background. the path of the canal in the mohawk valley was to be entirely along the southern bank of the river using feeders from the mohawk to water the canal, to get water into the canal. now, between connecting albany, the mohawk makes a big northward arc in the eastern section of the mohawk river, with the falls spilling the mohawk into the hudson. rendell involved himself in the process. he'd been asked to become an engineer on the erie canal. he said no, probably because he was b continuing his work in manhattan with other projects he was doing, but in any case, at a
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certain point, inserts himself into this issue of the eastern end of the canal, and he thinks, and he publicizes his thoughts that the canal ought to leave the mohawk valley and take a much shorter, cheaper, and direct route to albany along a route, in fact, he mapped 15 years earlier. rendell makes noise about it, probably anonymous newspaper articles, anonymous pamphlets, and wright, chief engineer wright decides just before the section of the canal is to be built, wright decides to go in exactly the opposite direction. that is, not take rendell's direct route to albany or even continue along the southern side of the mohawk as if arc's north and eventually down towards albany, but wright decides to cross over the often flood ray advantaged mohawk on an an
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aquaduct, and then recross the river in a wooden trough, not a very substantial, recross the river 12 miles along bang to the southside. now, wright presented this decision as an engineering necessity, but it appears actually, in fact, to have been more of a political decision to give the canal a run in saratoga county on the north side of the river for the benefit of certain interests there. there's much more time it. we don't have time to tell all the details now, but it's comforting to know the waste we see in public works projects today has a long legacy. wright and rendell became bitter enemies, and a couple years later, they wind up together on the chesapeake and delaware
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canal, short, but major one connecting the bays. wright is the chief engineer, and john rendell is the chief contractor, and after a few months, wright, who considered rendell a lying ninkumpoop in a private letter gets rendell fired. rendell sues. the case eventually goes to the u.s. supreme court. rendell wins a quarter of a million dollars which is an extraordinary amount of money, a tenth of the value of the cnd canal, and builds a mansion overlooking the canal which is eventually built exactly on the lines he had suggested and that wright claimed was wrong. it goes down to collect tolls, which is how he collected his quarter million dollars because the canal company didn't willingly pay off its -- the judgment against them.
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in any case, there are other aspects of the book that i think are new material which i don't think we have time to go into here. you have the very long competition between new york and virginia about which state will get west first, and it's been talked about in other erie books, but i think i stress it in this one that for decades, george washington and thomas jefferson who owned land in the ohio river valley, speculators of land, had desperately tried to find a way to get the river to improve the river and get it to go over the mountains and off to the other side and then to tributaries of the ohio river valley, but the river, unfortunately, was not up to the task, not the way that new york's mohawk's river makes a
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relatively easy pass through a break in the appalachian mountain chain, and interestingly, in 1817, just before new york decides to go ahead with the canal, a bill goes through, the bill goes through congress to create a bill called the bonus bill that would have essentially provided federal money for state infrastructure projects, and madison, james madison in the last day in office in congress, worked forwards the bill thinking madison wanted this thing because he had spoken about it in his -- inaugural address the previous year, madison vetoes the bill the last day in office. arguably, he says, on constitutional grounds, that the federal government has no business using the federal treasury to support state
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projects. obviously, things changed considerably since then, but at the time some bought that argument, but people in new york thought, well, the real reason for this very surprising veto is that madison suddenly realized that most of the money that would be flowing out of this bonus bill would be going to new york for its erie canal project, and so you have -- and new york goes ahead right away, the state legislature approves the project and funds it with state-issued bonds, also very unique situation at that time in the country. you have this very intense competition between new york city and virginia, and with the erie canal, new york essentially wins at least the cecial part of the competition -- commercial part of the come -- competition. there's other things to talk about. i forgot to start the clock to see how long i've been going, but i wanted to say something that -- talked about something
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not actually in the book. there's been a lot of talk lately about a national infrastructure bank. i don't know if people are aware of it, but it's in the obama budget, senator dodd from connecticut has a bill in the senate to create a national infrastructure bank. felix, the new york city financier who helped new york city out of the desperate financial straights in the 1970s has a book out calling for a national infrastructure bank, and all three of them, and other people, too, cite the erie canal as the first major piece of infrastructure built in the country and the sort of thing we should be doing again, and it's interesting, to me, that these -- there's significant efforts to recreate or to create and to build and rebuild american infrastructure and that the erie canal is cited, but it almost seems as though a lot of
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this citation of the erie canal is somewhat blind. there aren't really very many similarities on how new york state built the eri canal and how the federal government now supports infrastructure projects. however, there is one very important similarity or how it could inform the debate how the federal government should be creating a national infrastructure bank to fund infrastructure prompts, and that is that it is essential for there to be a single person that owns the project, and with the er iring's e canal, i have not mentioned it yet, but dewit clineton --
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clinton that he was he that dreamed up the erie canal. it wasn't. it was actually -- at first been proposed in 180 # 7 by a fellow who had intended to be the first western grain per chant of western new york, but he went broke because he discovered there was no good way to get the grain grown by the pioneer farmers, actually to get that grain east as i describedded. there was no good route, and he wound up, this fellow, jesse holly, his name, another connecticut native who tried to find phenomenonture -- fortune in the west, western new york, but he ends up in prison, and under a pseudoanymore, he argues and preparing and arguing
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for a canal across new york state to lake erie. dewit clinton picks up the idea three years later, and he makes the erie canal happen. if you don't know anything about him, he's a long time new york city mayor, new york state lawmaker, a congressman, one of the canal commissioners eventually, he's a long time new york governor, a new york city benefactor, social reformer, and nearly president in 1812 over madison, but then for the swing state of pennsylvania, but clinton has to be credited for see the the wiz some of the idea and attaching himself early to the effort, and he becomes its dheef promoter, and clinton -- he's a very popular leader, scrupulously honest, not something we see in public
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officials, but at the same time, a careless and often reviled politician. he left astounding public attacks roll off the back, and he, the single individual who guides erie's legislative approval, its financing, and popular support. if clinton had taken any of the many outrageous assaults to him or succumbed to self-doubt, arguably, you might say we could be living in a nation that peters out somewhere east of the mississippi. we might not have gotten to the west via the canal and interests to the nation, spanish to the south, english and french in the north, russian influence from the northwest night not have given us the country we have now, and i would say that, for those who talk now about creating a national infrastructure bank and cites
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the canal as the first piece of infrastructure made, it's important for those people involved with the bank to own it, to -- if that's what is wanted, support it, and develop arguments against anybody arguing against it, and then go ahead and do it with the same sort of dedication that dewit clinton put into the erie canal. i think that's all i'll say for prepared remarks, and now, i think, if anybody would like to ask questions, go ahead. [applause] >> do you think the proposed bank is a good idea? >> i'm not an expert in this area, but i have noticed the
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develop of the idea because people mention the erie canal, but it's essential. american infrastructure's falling apart. we have not built much since the 1950s, and another similarity between the erie canal and now is that the cam was built during a -- the country's first great depression. the canal -- the canal project started in 1817, but in 1819 before much was built, we had the panic of 1819 caused by flawed banking policies, and that depression lasted until the middle 1820s, the precise building of the canal, and what that depression did, actually, was allow for contracts to be taken at lower prices, took construction costs dome, and it gave work to what were
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unemployeded people. if we wind up creating a national infrastructure bank, we seem to be headed in a similar economic direction right now, and it might be a good time to create the bank, and in this case, have the federal government provide work to people who may -- the ma -- many people who may be losing their jobs. >> do i infer correctly the original sponsors were more politicians than businessmen? >> that's -- i would say the originalled idea came from this failed first grain merchant of western new york who failed because he had no way to get the grain from western new york back east. that was in 1807, and in 1808, a
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couple of new york state senators get legislation passed to at least get a first survey done of a possible route, and boast of those legislatures are legislatures, they are also happen to be western new york pioneer, and so it's in their interest, but they also, i think, had a broader interest because they saw the greater possibilities of laying a canal of upstate new york, accessing their lands, of course, but also being able to then contact or make advantage of all that the interior that the continent had to offer. go ahead. wait for the microphone. good. >> if -- if someone were to
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transport, i guess, by steam, one's barges from new york or philadelphia to albany -- >> uh-huh -- >> and then to traverse the canal with mules, does the cam company provide the meals, or what do i not understand about that? >> you mean, the workings -- how the canal workedded -- >> yes, but if one were to deliver one's barges -- right -- >> to the canal, and by steam -- >> right -- >> and the owners of the barges didn't have mules -- >> yeah, they did. i mean, the barges that operated on the canal, essentially, the system was a barge and a mule, and the mule pulled the barge along the canal. maybe i'm not understanding the question?
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>> barges started in new york. suppose it started in new york, philadelphia, and they were towed by steam -- >> right. >> up to albany, and they were left there; right? aassume, just left there -- >> right. >> how did they traverse the canal to buffalo, for example. >> most goods would not come up the hudson river in barges. it goes up the hudson river initially for a brief period in sailing ships, but ultimately in increasingly larger steam boats in 1807, and the canal completed in 1825. it was a separate segment, good went from new york city, up the hudson to albanyings and they were transshipped to canal barges. did i answer the question? no, tell me. i'm not sure i did. >> i think so. >> okay.
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[laughter] go ahead. >> [inaudible] >> the mules were ownedded by the canal companies; right? you had barges that took goods and barges that took passengers, but in all cases, pulled originally by horses for the first couple of years, but then it was discovered that mules are actually pull harder and longer and with -- and in a more docile manner. anybody else? >> how many cam companies were there? >> well, there were a bunch. initially, there were a couple guys whose names escape me now who started the first passenger canal boats, and they were actually intended to be mohawk notary
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-- monopoluo. the advertising line was one line on the canal. again, even in the 1820s, we have business interests that are not necessarily in line with the public interest, but eventually, and actually, fairly quickly, a number of competitors emerged, and it issue -- travel on the canal was competitive, not particularly expensive, but enough that people who ran barges mode money after paying significant tolls make the canal a profitable veepture for -- venture for the state. >> did the railroad put the canal out of business? i would think they would have, you know? >> no, it's an interesting question. what happened was, i think if
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the canal had not been built from 1817-1825, railroads start coming in in the 1830s. initially, they can't -- railroads can't transport very much so they are not a competitor for barges for heavily loaded barges for really a couple more decades, but it's a curious thing. once the canal was build and opened, that became the route west. when i -- my office is in a neighborhood that has -- in a neighborhood that has lots of little places to eat. i wind up having lunch or getting lunch all the time from the same deli in the bottom of the building. i could go to, like, eight places, but i go to the same place. i think a lot of that sort of human instinct is what happened with the canal. once it opened and the way west was from albany to buffalo, that's how people went, and so when the first railroads were
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build in new york state, the first rail line was laid right parallel to the canal, and later, the first interstate west through new york was laid right next to the railroad, and it was not until really after the civil war that the amount of freight carried by railroads exceeded the amount of freight carried by the erie canal and other canals. >> i've got a follow-up question to that actually, you know, are there any bits of the erie canal operational today for commerce rather than historical republicans? >> right. , i think i mentioned this is the third version. the first was four feet deep, enlargement from the 1830s to the 60s, and then from 1905-1917, the current canal built, a canal for motorized
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barges. the current canal is essentially much straighter, much, much broader than the original canal, and there is -- i've basketball on the canal, and there's now -- i've been on the canal, and there's not for several decades, no commercial activity. it's entirely pleasure boaters, and there was a brief resurgence in the summer when gas went up to -- when oil prices spiked and some shippers briefly, apparently, shifted to the barges which are much cheaper than strucks object interstate with gas over four a gallon, but that went back to the situation we have now which is pleasure boaters on the canal. okay? anyone else? all right. thanks very much for coming, and
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i hope you enjoy the book. [applause] >> here's a look at some books published this week:
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